Lots of cultures celebrate May Day. The Romans had the festival of Flora, the Gaelic people had Beltain, while Germanic tribes enjoyed a spot of Walpurgisnacht.
The ancient Welsh festival goes by the rather lovely name of Calan Mai, in which we celebrate the arrival of summer; traditionally by drinking lots of mead. Nowadays, though, we're more likely to take the family away for a weekend treat.
Wales Coast Path
Cardiff International White Water
The Welsh capital is perfect for a weekend city break, but it’s got a few distinctly un-urban tricks up its sleeve. You can hire bikes and explore the city’s huge central green belt, which includes the 130-acre Bute Park, Llandaff Cathedral and the Taff Trail's miles of off-road cycle paths along the River Taff. Then, plunge into the man-made wild waters of Cardiff International White Water, which does special family adventure packages that include rafting, hydro-speed and hot-dogging.
The purple haze of bluebells is one of Wales’ greatest natural wonders, and they peak in early May. It’s hard to pick a favourite place to see them, because they look spectacular in any ancient woodland setting - of which we’ve got plenty. The Woodland Trust’s hot tip is Coed Cefn Woods near Crickhowell, which has the added benefit of an Iron Age hill fort. No doubt our ancestors would have appreciated the bluebells, too, and not just because they’re gorgeous to look at: they used bluebell bulb glue to stick feathers in their arrows. We've discovered loads more places to see bluebells too.
If you're heading to West Wales, there are several fabulous gardens you can visit with woodland bluebell trails including the impressive National Botanic Garden of Wales and the family-friendly Cae Hir Gardens near Lampeter.
Welsh Mountain Zoo
The Penguin Parade, Chimp Encounter and Sea Lion Feeding are twice-daily highlights at the Welsh Mountain Zoo, set high above Colwyn Bay. There’s a strong conservation ethos to the zoo, which is helping in the fight to save endangered species from around the world, including the zoo’s own snow leopards, red pandas and Sumatran tigers. Apart from the animals, there’s a Jungle Adventureland and Tarzan Trail Adventure Playground for children to go wild in.
Heart of Wales Railway
How about this for a weekend adventure? Friendly little trains run for 121 miles between Swansea and Shrewsbury on the Heart of Wales line, one of Britain’s loveliest train routes. From lazy estuarine beginnings, it heads through the richly pastured Towy Valley and up into red kite country, where it rattles over mighty viaducts, and plunges into tunnels drilled deep into the mountains, before it emerges blinking into the sunlit uplands around the Mid Wales spa towns, and onwards to the border. There are several great market towns along the way, but most of the stops are just simple platforms on the edge of rural hamlets. People on tractors will wave at you. Please wave back.
The clever thing about Heatherton World of Activities near Tenby is that it’s free to get in: you only pay for the activities you fancy. So older children might head straight for the high wires, karting and paintball, while younger ones might prefer the adventure golf, mini-pedalos or play areas.
The Carmarthenshire Fans
The Carmarthenshire Fans, that’s ‘fans’ pronounced ‘vans’, is a wildly wonderful western edge of the Brecon Beacons mountain range, and the least visited of its peaks. It’s a good family walk from the car park near Llanddeusant: hard enough to feel like a proper mountain, but easily doable in a morning. At the top, the jagged escarpment of Picws Du plunges down into the depths of Llyn y Fan Fach, home of the legendary Lady of the Lake. And if you don’t see a multitude of red kites along the way, we’ll give you a piggy-back down. Honest.